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View Full Version : Why are fireworks considered so taboo?



JediTricks
07-06-2003, 02:43 AM
Here in Los Angeles, there were less fireworks shows than ever before; during the 2000 new year's celebration, the city of Los Angeles opted to have no fireworks as part of the millennium celebration, instead the then-mayor and others decided to put an extremely lame fiber-optic light net over the Hollywood sign and consider that a reasonable public celebratory effort for one of the most famous cities on the planet. Personal fireworks are illegal in the city (though not in the county) beyond poppers -- which are fun in their own right but not a reasonable exchange for actual fireworks. But why?

In the US in 2001, there were 9,500 injuries attributed to fireworks, either directly or indirectly related. That's a lot of injuries, but consider this:
in 1997, there were about 9,590 injuries attributed to automobile accidents every single day that year, a total of 3.5 million injuries; same year, around 69,000 pedestrians were injured from traffic-related incidents; in '98, over 2 million people called poison control centers in response to poisoning incidents; nearly 600,000 people annually are treated in emergency departments for bicycle-related injuries.The average number of fireworks-related deaths between '95 and '99 were approximately 16 people a year.
in '97, there were around 42,000 people killed in auto accidents, 115 deaths per day; same year, 5,220 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related incidents, that works out to around 14 per day; in '98, 5,606 teenagers and 2,027 children were killed in car crashes; same year, 38% of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related; again, same year, 758 people were killed from bicycle-related injuries; in 2000, there were 160 children killed from choking, 10 times as many as the overall average (children and adult) fireworks-related deaths.
* most of the above figures came from the CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/duip.htm).
Certainly fireworks are dangerous, and so-called "safe & sane" fireworks that people can buy legally from stores account for more injuries than illegal fireworks, often because adults think the "safe & sane" label means it's ok to give children red-hot sparklers and other inappropriate-for-children fireworks.

But my question is, why is our society so afraid and hyperreactive to fireworks when they account for less injuries than walking down the street, riding a bike, or accidental poisonings and far less deaths than cigarettes, alcohol, driving, and choking? Wouldn't it be better to simply properly-educate the public on safe fireworks use and crack down on irresponsible parents who give their kids fireworks than to simply prohibit the use of fireworks - especially when these kinds of prohibitions have been proven to be routinely ineffective and actually lead to increased use of illegal and more-dangerous substances?

LTBasker
07-06-2003, 05:13 AM
Maybe they should just sell a license to buy fireworks. However I know even if things are illegal in the state you can still buy them legally. Like here in OK, pop bottle rockets are illegal to buy just anywhere, but if you bought them on land owned by Indians, then it's ok. You just can't shoot'em off legally..

Dunno why people are so afraid of them, if more people bought them then they could get better quality. Maybe people just didn't feel like celebrating this year with the war and all. Crazy crazy crazy.

plasticfetish
07-06-2003, 07:11 AM
What's the deal ... you sad that you didn't get to blow anything up this year?

Here in Los Angeles, there were less fireworks shows than ever before; during the 2000 new year's celebration, the city of Los Angeles opted to have no fireworks as part of the millennium celebration
The 2000 new years was something entirely unrelated to fireworks. Los Angeles in general ... and I'll include my neck of the woods, Long Beach ... did a feeble job of celebrating. Something to do with Y2K paranoia, fear of terrorism and being basically lame at celebrating anything important.

Personal fireworks are illegal in the city (though not in the county) ... But why?
In my town they are legal. As a matter of fact my town looks like a war zone from sun down until about 10 PM. My town also has very strict building codes with regard to flammable roof tops. Not to mention, we're miles from any open dry brush or flammable hillsides.

In the US in 2001, there were 9,500 injuries attributed to fireworks, either directly or indirectly related. That's a lot of injuries, but consider this ...
Can you really argue that because so few people are injured by fireworks that they're less dangerous than any other hazard? Perhaps the strict rules governing their use and probable abuse are what ends up preventing more injuries. Last night I listened to and watched quite a few drunks lighting off things that they'd gone and brought over illegally from Nevada. The neighbor kid's flying 2 liter bottle with an M80 taped to it's side managed to explode on my garage roof. If it had landed in my yard or near my son ... I could give you some more good reasons why most people don't deserve the unimportant privilege that comes with 4th of July fun. I'm amazed that I only heard the Fire Department pass by a half dozen times last night.

Certainly fireworks are dangerous, and so-called "safe & sane" fireworks that people can buy legally from stores account for more injuries than illegal fireworks, often because adults think the "safe & sane" label means it's OK to give children red-hot sparklers and other inappropriate-for-children fireworks.
"Safe and Sane" applies to the potency as well as the design of most fireworks you can buy around here. We don't get bottle rockets because people tend to shoot them at each other. We don't get firecrackers because they tend to blow off little people's fingers. We don't get fireworks that are shaped like animals or little vehicles ... because children tend to think that they are toys. Basically, we don't get a lot of things because not everyone can be trusted to act responsibly. Education is important (it does happen anyway) but the best way to reduce the burden that the average tax payer will suffer when it comes to paying for things like fire, police and emergency ... is to simply decide that it isn't worth the hassle to allow fireworks.

Now ... getting people to stop shooting their handguns in the air is a whole different matter.

scruffziller
07-06-2003, 08:31 AM
Now ... getting people to stop shooting their handguns in the air is a whole different matter.
Yea,:D I think it has to do with the fact that they are dangerous and associated with fun. Anytime those 2 mix, people who are against it(the ones that mainly see the dangerous side), try to ban it twice as hard because the other side(the ones who mainly see the fun side) that is fighting for it, fights even harder to keep it.

Exhaust Port
07-06-2003, 09:47 AM
My friends and I have been doing the fireworks thing on the 4th now for 12 years with no injuries. They are legal to buy but illegal to set off here. We're lucky enough to even have a fireworks plant just up the street that has a showroom open year round.

My thought on this is that states should implement a fireworks safety program and license similar to that for hunting. You would sit through a day or 2 of safety seminars, take a test and if passed you can purchase your annual fireworks license. That license would permit the holder to purchase certain Class of fireworks and set them off according to rules established by the state.

The reasons I think the license thing would be a better solution than just keeping them outlawed in most states is:

1. Safety. Injuries take place due to ignorance or just plain stupidity. Proper education would probably get rid of most of those injuries. Hopefully better standards could be set for importation of foreign fireworks. I have to admit the most unstable fireworks I've experienced are the Chinese ones. It seems the long shipping times and storage degrade their stability more than the fresher domestic ones.

2. Control Because they are legal to purchase it's nearly impossible to control their use. They're being set off in residental, commericial, state property. Establishing rules to were they can or cannot be used would lower certain risks. Heck, ,if I knew that I couldn't use them in my backyard due to it's proximity to nearby buildings but I could set them off at my buddies house I would head over in a heart beat. Also times could be set. I'm sick of hearing some neighbors setting off firecrackers at 2:00 am.

3. Money States could raise money by charging a nominal fee for the class, initial and recurrent licenses. That money could be used for future safety education or other programs.


No program would be fool proof but the hunting license is pretty successful. There is a hobby that is meant to kill and maim and there are less stories annually of hunting deaths than firework deaths. What do others think?

mabudonicus
07-06-2003, 10:10 AM
Yeah, Canada is like South Park as far as fireworks, so I hear this one loud and clear...
As a kid I had to settle for black snakes (NO JOKE), sparklers and the classic "burning schoolhouse"...... I lived up north, and the bonfires all around town were dozens of times cooler than the "pyrotechnics" we were allowed... I LOVE illegal fireworks, though, like ladyfingers and bottlerockets and stuff... none of the real "big bang" stuff... I would NEVER fire one at someone, or even anywhere someone MAY get involved, I am a responsible dude after all..... it's weird, but a lot of the "legal" ones are pretty darn dangerous... you can get 3 foor long rockets that blast flame out the back, fly to a height of 60 feet (if they're pointed the right way) and then blow up.... but a bottle rocket is too dangerous to be had?? MAN, it drives me nuts......

I mean, I don't even need to say anything at a store to buy, say, a big jug of gasoline, or a power router say, which, if I'm not careful, will do SERIOUS damage...... but there's no way I could own and use a 50-pack of Black Cats??? MAN!!!!

Yes, there should be some nice clear rules, like you said ExP, if I knew there was a place and time where it was condoned, I would go there... the last "firework" holiday, may 24, we went and lit a fairly unimpressive selection of stuff off in this huge brownfield near our house, there's not even grass growing there, no buildings around it or nothing.....

It's too bad that it seems to be a case of a few thousand bad apples spoiling the whole crop.... it's sad that idiots need so much protection;)

scruffziller
07-06-2003, 10:15 AM
I like to rip off the sticks of the bottle rockets and watch them do unpredictable things. I did that once and and it flew accross a moving car across its windshield. We also like shooting Roman Candles at each other, well, mainly at STOP signs.

Exhaust Port
07-06-2003, 10:56 AM
My friends and I have learned many things of what not to do with fireworks over the years. Lighting anything that has a broken component (ie stick or fin) is a rule for destroying the firework (poor water on it). We've had too many fireworks chase and hit people thanks to stuff like that. Scruffziller, I was right there with you once doing pretty unsafe things with them but after a few close calls we learned our lesson. Sadly no one was around to tell us what was safe and unsafe at the time and you don't grow if you don't learn. As you said, you had a firework hit a cars windshield, what if it had hit the drivers window? What if that window was open? I had the same thing happen but as you experienced, we were lucky and it missed the open drivers window and bounced off the windshield edge. It was stupid and we learn a valuable lesson.

Model rockets are amazingly powerfull and are legal. I did model rocketry for 5 years and thanks to the safety oriented industry I never had anything close to an accident even though there were several defective engines that exploded and rockets that flew out of control.

I would love to see an ignition system for fireworks. Nothing makes me more nervous that kneeling down by a tube trying to light a wick a the shell. Give me an electronic firing mechanism any day.

Kidhuman
07-06-2003, 11:47 AM
Heck, wherew I live for the whoile month of June, when you walk into Wal-Mart there are huge firework displays. They dont sell mortars, M-80's and blockbusters, but all the colorful stuff. I enjoy fireworks. I like to set them off and watch em. I dont think there is anything wrong with them. Everyonce and a while you get the average schmo who decides to hold them in his hand and let it go off to see if it will hurt them. That is what ruins it for alot of areas. cant understand why the city of L.A. wouldnt even put on a display run by the city especially for the 4th of July. Over here, they tore down an old bridge and celebrated with a huge fireworks display. I guess they like blowing stuff up here or something.

Jargo
07-06-2003, 12:20 PM
I HATE THEM. Got very very sensitive ears and hate the screeching sound of rockets. Also I'm very jumpy and hate to be shocked. Bangs don't impress me much. I'm also not terribly impressed by pyrotechnics. If you're gonna burn something damn well burn it good not all this fancy schmantzy crap. Just light a torch and set the thatch alight and let's all roast some 'taters. Drink some beer and singalong to whoever can remember the tune and the words of any song. Fireworks are crap. Last ime i went to a public display i was twelve and i stood there watching all the buffoons clapping and going "oooooh!" and "aaaaaaaah!" and i thought to myself what moprons they were for being so impressed with so little. I'd rather set a disused tower block alight and enjoy a real show. Or a car. Cars are fun to burn much more explosive. Fireworks are just so lame and predictable. Powerless. You can't beat a good old fashioned out of control inferno. Fires yes, fireworks no.

Dr Zoltar
07-06-2003, 01:59 PM
Well I for one will not spend my hard earned money on fireworks. I have no problem with state/government/city sponsored firework displays. I do have a problem with people buying them and then setting them off where they aren't supposed to. Where I live, you can buy fireworks legally, but you can only set them off on the 4th of July. Some types of fireworks are legal and others aren't -- I don't know which are which. One friend told me ones that fly are illegal, another told me it was ones whose intent where to explode and nothing else. I really don't know.

But here are my reasons for wishing the road side stands would be banned:

1) Litter -- Nothing like seeing paper and plastic scattered all over the place the week after Independence Day. Or picking up bottle rocket remnants from my yard.

2) Fire -- There are frequently fires started from someone not using the fireworks properly. And they almost never get caught but cause a lot of damage.

3) Noise -- Even though you are only supposed to light fireworks on the 4th of July, there are always people setting them off the week before or the week after. Or at 3 am when I'm trying to sleep.

As for injury, I'm only sympathetic if it happens to someone who had nothing to do with the fireworks (like a kid who gets hit with a bottle rocket down the street from whoever's setting them off). If a family gives a child a firecracker to set of and s/he holds on to it too long and loses a finger, it's sad, but the parent's should have known better.

Personally, I think it's a waste of money too. I'd rather blow my money on Star Wars figures that I can look at for as long as I own them then explosives that are gone in an instant. Plus, they are fairly expensive now a days.

LusiferSam
07-06-2003, 02:22 PM
I think fireworks may be a source of fear because with relative ease most can modified into a potential lethal weapon. Bottle rockets, no braider. Roman candles, easily done. Artillery shell, oh the things I could have done with artillery shell had my dad not hidden them. Firecrackers, TV and movies have only scratched the surface.

The problem with illegal fireworks is what's illegal in one state may not be illegal in other. Like I think Roman candles are illegal in Montana, but my dad would mail order his stuff out of South Dakota so we always had them. Or I had friends in high school who go over to the Crow Reservation and buy all kinds of stuff you couldn't buy else where. Mostly M-60s, M-80s, and real cherry bombs. What's the solution? Education, more regulations, harsher enforcement? I don't have answer.

But personally I love a good professional fireworks show. There is a real artistry to doing a good show. The combination of chemistry, physics, and art can be breath taking. But there is something to lighting them off your self as well.

InsaneJediGirl
07-06-2003, 05:12 PM
No idea.We have these "safe&sane" fireworks in FL,anything that leaves the ground is illegal to buy and shoot off but people do it anyways.The county sherriff has other things to worry about I suppose.Been doing our own for as long as I can remember,with no injuries or fire.I suppose its all in how you handle your own set-up.

Fireworks are most likely taboo in most places because stupid parents let their kids run wild and play with them :rolleyes:

LTBasker
07-06-2003, 09:03 PM
Fireworks are most likely taboo in most places because stupid parents let their kids run wild and play with them :rolleyes:

You sure it's the kids? One year my mom and aunt sat the back yard on fire. :p Well it was only about a 4' by 8' patch but still, it was quite funny. :D

JediTricks
07-07-2003, 12:32 AM
What's the deal ... you sad that you didn't get to blow anything up this year?A little, yeah. I had a leg injury last month so I can't stand for long periods or sit in the car for long periods and thus couldn't go to any fireworks shows that were affordable and relatively close because they just didn't exist. And then, I couldn't even set off poppers & firecrackers in the middle of my street because the LAPD had put on extra patrols to look for fireworks offenders. :frus:


The 2000 new years was something entirely unrelated to fireworks. Los Angeles in general ... and I'll include my neck of the woods, Long Beach ... did a feeble job of celebrating. Something to do with Y2K paranoia, fear of terrorism and being basically lame at celebrating anything important.I watched the French and the Australians put on incredible millennium celebrations on TV and they were the best and most (respectively) fireworks I had ever seen. In contrast, then-mayor Reardon threw a switch, bored the entire town, and wasted tax dollars on something that wasn't even fun.


Can you really argue that because so few people are injured by fireworks that they're less dangerous than any other hazard? That's not what I'm saying, what I'm saying is that they are dangerous but are treated in a manner that doesn't match the threats faced by their use while more dangerous hazards are paid lip service in contrast. You don't see the city of LA banning christmas trees even though they cause fire and death as well. You don't see the city banning St Patrick's Day celebrations even though the number of drunk driving deaths skyrockets on that date. You don't see the city banning the watching of the Superbowl even though studies have shown that wife-beating goes through the roof during and just after the game. You don't see the city prohibiting alcohol even though it accounts directly or indirectly for more deaths in teenagers than any other factor. If fireworks are unreasonable, why aren't all these other things? If they're not entirely unreasonable, why the over-the-top laws for this and not other things?

It's sad when a celebratory tradition that dates back in our country to its very beginning and in other countries as far back as 1,000 years is reduced to nothing. In LA, it's becoming that July 4th is just another date on the calendar rather than a celebration of our nation's birth.


EP, interesting ideas on fireworks licensing and classes, that makes a lot more sense to me than our current "blind fear" program. Heck, even encouraging more local fireworks shows would be a better solution IMO (and a fireworks-shooting range would be really awesome).


Mab, what's a "burning schoolhouse" firework? We had snakes & sparklers when I was a kid, I liked the snakes but didn't care for the sparklers.


I like to rip off the sticks of the bottle rockets and watch them do unpredictable things. I did that once and and it flew accross a moving car across its windshield. We also like shooting Roman Candles at each other, well, mainly at STOP signs.Geez scruff, thanks for doing all these irresponsible things thus ruining it for the rest of us. :p Roman Candles were some of my favorites as a kid, now they're way not allowed.


EP, model rocket motors are now not sold in most stores in my area because they are dangerous. I like your idea for the electronic lighting system, that same fear of getting so close to firecrackers and whatnot is what kept me from enjoying more fireworks as a kid.


Jargo, I dislike the sounds of fireworks as well, but I recently learned that most fireworks' sounds are not byproducts but actually added elements in separate chambers. As for your dislike of the visual effects of fireworks, I think that's just your British heritage being embarassed by our 4th of July celebrations. :D



I think fireworks may be a source of fear because with relative ease most can modified into a potential lethal weapon. You are right of course, but what about household poisons? I think part of the fear comes from man's instinctual fear of fire and modern man's group-fear of taking any sort of risks.

mabudonicus
07-07-2003, 12:50 AM
First, I actually gather up whatever works I set off.... they're still a bit environmentally "off" but at least we clean them up ;).........
JT- the "schoolhouse" is a crummy little lunch-box shaped thing, about 6 inches long, with a wee wick sticking out... it gives off a fairly pathetic spray of multi coloured flames/sparks for about 30 seconds, then burns away to nothing.... really, it's one of the saddest things ever.... maybe Seth_quinn and JJreason can back me up on this...

Deoxyribonucleic
07-07-2003, 02:41 AM
I like the worms.

plasticfetish
07-07-2003, 03:33 AM
A little, yeah.
I'm sorry.
I will admit, having grown up in northern California where fireworks were always a complete no-no ... I do enjoy being given the chance to blow off my own fingers now.

I watched the French and the Australians put on incredible millennium celebrations on TV and they were the best and most (respectively) fireworks I had ever seen. In contrast, then-mayor Reardon threw a switch, bored the entire town, and wasted tax dollars on something that wasn't even fun.
I was thinking about that stupid light show also. What a bore. Can we do anything in this town that doesn't involve lighting up the Hollywood sign? Why we don't just mail that thing over to the Australians and get it over with I'll never know.

what I'm saying is ...
Point well made. I suppose it's because it's such an obvious issue and one that we only have to deal with once a year. The child safety aspect really does help to make it more urgent.

You don't see the city banning the watching of the Superbowl ...
Well, the best we could do was to get rid of our own football team.

Exhaust Port
07-08-2003, 01:36 AM
On the 5th I saw a local fireworks display that draws 10,000+ to a parking lot at an old heavy equipment plant. Apparantly it has been going on for years and I've only heard about it now. It's less than 5 miles from my house so I have no excuse.

It was a solid 40 minute show and it was breath taking. It's been a good 5-10 years since I've seen a full professional fireworks show so there were a lot of changes. Some of the new types of shells where just awesome. The colors, effects and shapes were widely varied, more than I even knew existed. I also noticed the benefit of the computer controlled launch sequence as they did an outstanding job painting the sky. I'm really looking forward to next year now.

Dr Zoltar
07-08-2003, 07:04 PM
Here's a link to a news website about a fire in Eastern Washington that's been buring for 4 days. It was caused by careless people launching fireworks at the shore. I'm sure this is just one of many fires caused this past weekend due to fireworks not being handled correctly.

http://www.komotv.com/stories/25900.htm

plasticfetish
07-08-2003, 07:59 PM
"The Spokane tribe ordered an emergency ban on fireworks the next day."

I can't believe you guys are allowed fireworks at all up there. What's the logic? Is it because it's relatively moist? I'm amazed ... there's so much wood around, you'd think it would be out of the question.

Exhaust Port
07-08-2003, 08:00 PM
More fires are caused by lightning than anything else. I'd also think that camp fires are more of a threat than fireworks. This is the only forest fire that I recall being set by errant fireworks.

Dr Zoltar
07-08-2003, 09:26 PM
Plasticfetish,

Yeah, we have a lot of forests up here. And lately it's been pretty dry. Fireworks are allowed because they bring in money. The local Indian reservations sell them like crazy and they are allowed the illegal ones so to speak. They are legal on the reservation, but illegal off.

Exhaust Port,

You are quite right. Lightning strikes and campfires do start more fires than fireworks. But lightning is nature so there's not much we can do about that right now. As for campfires, like fireworks, if looked after properly won't be a problem. But this fire looks like people goofing off shooting fireworks to the shore from a boat. Not very responsible if you ask me. And any way we can prevent fires, even one, is saving resources and possibly lives.

I however, don't think fireworks will be banned any time in the near future though.

mabudonicus
07-09-2003, 09:44 AM
Maybe dummies should just be banned, then everything would be safe;)

Deoxyribonucleic
07-09-2003, 12:15 PM
Maybe dummies should just be banned, then everything would be safe;)

Awwwwwww, darnit all! And I really wanted to set off my 1/4 sticks of dynamite today in the hills of Pasedena where it's nice and dry....awwww, now I can't 'cause I'm banned :frus:


ROFL, j/k of course. Mabudon, that was a great post, now if only it were that easy to ban dummies from EVERYTHING!! :) Except then, you'd have no more Lannytainment ;) hehe

Exhaust Port
07-09-2003, 12:39 PM
Fireworks might be banned but you can still buy gasoline by the gallon for next to nothing. ;)

JediTricks
07-09-2003, 09:20 PM
Fireworks might be banned but you can still buy gasoline by the gallon for next to nothing. ;)
You call nearly $2 nothing? :D

Exhaust Port
07-09-2003, 10:49 PM
With $20 for one large fireworks shell, the gasoline gives you a lot more bang for you buck! ;)

mabudonicus
07-10-2003, 12:45 PM
I've also seen some pretty scary, completely oblivious stupidity involving them propane cylinders on BBQ's... like life-flashes-before-your-eyes kinda stuff... them things knock houses off their foundations IF USED IMPROPERLY..... those scare me more than ANY firework...... odd thing too is the fact that (and this is not intended to be political) we don't really have guns up here... guns really scare me, and you can get them and use them responsibly, and SOME folks don't, but ya can still get them... it's just weird......
DNA- I was gonna respond, but I thought over what I was gonna put and realized that it would be WOEFULLY misconstrued;)

Deoxyribonucleic
07-10-2003, 08:42 PM
DNA- I was gonna respond, but I thought over what I was gonna put and realized that it would be WOEFULLY misconstrued;)

ROFLMAO, I understand ;)

JediTricks
07-11-2003, 06:44 PM
With $20 for one large fireworks shell, the gasoline gives you a lot more bang for you buck! ;)
It's not as bright or colorful or directional though, fireworks and fire are very different things when it comes to entertainment.


BTW, if you don't follow the directions on a bag of self-lighting charcoal, it can be more dangerous than a firework. I know someone who almost killed herself by making an assumption about letting air into the bag, it went up in a huge fireball.

Exhaust Port
07-12-2003, 12:25 AM
If done correctly you can make anything dangerous. It's a dangerous world no matter how many rules we make. We just need to be smarter and not try to dumb everything down because a few dull tacks can follow common sense.